Former Sligo Rovers and Finn Harps Under 19 player Oisin Merritt has joined the Republic of Ireland cerebral palsy team
Merritt fell 20 feet from a balcony in Spain and slipped into a coma in 2014, when he was just 19.
The young footballer said paramedic, David Sullivan from Galway who happened to stumble upon the scene, saved his life.
Once dubbed ‘Miracle Man’, Merritt defied all the odds to survive the accident and was recently given the all clear to return to playing football.
He qualifies for the cerebral palsy team due to the acquired brain injury he received from the fall and is relishing the chance to get back on the field.
"The opportunity not only to play football again, but represent my country at events like the World Championships and possibly the Paralympics is brilliant." said Merritt, who is a native of Stranorlar in Donegal.
"For something so positive to come from an accident like mine is unbelievable. I have played for a few high level clubs and the standard these guys are at are right up there with the best, I'm delighted to be involved in high level of football again.
"Since I've hooked up with the CP team it has boosted my career so much with a lot of interest from local clubs, the coaches are the best in the business and improved my game in leaps and bounds and I'm sure they will continue to do so."
Head Coach Paul Breen said: "I'm delighted Oisin has been given the all clear to play as it is clearly something he loves doing very much. He now has an opportunity to represent his country at the World Championships in Argentina later this year and Oisin’s energy, enthusiasm and drive will only benefit the whole team.
"He’s a great lad to have around and a really top notch player too. With his addition to the likes of Dillon Sheridan and Gary Messitt, the squad is coming together nicely, but there is still room for quality additions.”
On the recruitment of players, Breen comments: “It is very difficult to recruit players as there is no dedicated league where I can go and watch players and just take my pick. While we run various promotional and awareness initiatives we have to heavily rely on the wider footballing community to make us aware of possible players or for players themselves to come forward. It is a fantastic opportunity to represent your country in major championships.”
They are currently in talks with at least three other players who play top flight amateur football who may qualify either through CP or acquired brain injury.
Breen said some of these players have played with SSE Airtricity League clubs: “This signifies the quality of players out there that may qualify but identifying them is difficult and this is where we need help from clubs or players themselves.”
A former inter county GAA player is also in the frame.
Breen refers to England player James Blackwell who hid his CP from all around him, including his fiancé, and is now considered a top player for England. “I would urge people to check out his short video on YouTube”. Blackwell has cerebral palsy but has very slight and almost un-noticeable symptoms and he played mainstream football all his life. CP football presented Blackwell with the opportunity to live his life’s dream and represent his country.
“When you look at Oisin’s case, Blackwell’s situation and when you take into consideration the other players we are talking to at the moment, I am convinced there are other players playing mainstream football that could qualify but they need to come to our attention one way or another. These are inspiring stories and should be heralded as so," added Breen.
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